Mike Woodson may not be a mathematician, but he believes in the power of numbers.
He knows that one plus one is two and three times two is six, although he might have trouble telling you how to take integrals and find derivatives off the top of his head. In a lot of ways, he just believes in the power of numbers when it's convenient.
Ask the New York Knicks head coach to tell you about the team's defensive efficiency numbers, and he might go on a lengthy sermon about the merits of Carmelo Anthony's scoring figures. Ask him about the on-court/off-court differentials of his backcourt, and he'd probably just look at you like you were speaking gibberish.
But ask him about the chances the Knicks have at making the playoffs, and all of a sudden, numbers are wonderful:
Woodson: "Mathematically, we're still in it."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) February 27, 2014
Technically, he's right.
Advanced stats come to the Knicks. RT @HerringWSJ: Woodson: "Mathematically, we're still in it."— Tom Ziller (@teamziller) February 27, 2014
The Knicks are 21-36, leaving them just five spots shy of the Atlanta Hawks and the No. 8 seed in the pathetically weak Eastern Conference.
With 25 games to go—Woodson may not even need a calculator to do that kind of advanced addition (21 plus 36) and subsequent subtraction (82 minus 57)—there's plenty of time for New York to jump the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers before supplanting the Hawks.
But it's not going to happen—especially given the way the Knicks are playing right now. After Dirk Nowitzki's buzzer-beater somehow found the hoop, this beleaguered organization has won only two of its past 10 contests.
And that makes this the most appropriate reaction:
I applaud Woodson for his never-say-die attitude. And since he's so mathematically inclined, he could probably tell me that I'm using 10 fingers to do so, seeing as there are five digits on each hand.
An NBA coach should at least put on a facade of confidence throughout the season, even in the face of humiliating defeat after humiliating defeat.
But it's just humorous at this point.
The Knicks do have a mathematical chance at making the playoffs—and it's still amazing how numbers matter when they suit the point Woody is trying to make—but context is important. And the context is frightful in Madison Square Garden.
Negative mentalities and losses abound. The team keeps falling back in the standings while refusing to play any semblance of defense. Raymond Felton is facing legal trouble, thinning out an already putrid crop of point guards.
Unlike Woodson, I'm not just going to pick numbers that are convenient to my point. That's because nearly all the numbers are convenient to my point.
Will the Knicks make the playoffs?
Want offensive ones? The Knicks have a 106.8 offensive rating, which leaves them ranked No. 19 in the Association, per Basketball-Reference. They're also allowing 109 points per 100 possessions, better than only four other bottom-feeding squads.
According to simple rating system, which takes margin of victory and strength of schedule into account, New York is the No. 21 team in basketball.
Come to think of it, maybe Woodson should keep waxing poetic about 'Melo's scoring.